How to Cope With the Death of Someone You Love
We will all eventually lose someone very dear to us at some point in our lives. The pain is deep and often lasts for what seems like an eternity. You may feel like you’ll never get over the hurt, but there are brighter days ahead. With time and the support of others, you can recover from your loss and go back to living a life somewhat closer to what you had before. The key is to not become overly consumed with why your loved one died at this particular time, but how you can use this as an opportunity to learn and grow.
“I have found that sometimes it is in staying open to the mystery and recognizing that we don’t understand and can’t control everything that surrounds us that understanding eventually comes. In fact, perhaps it is ‘standing under’ the mysterious experience of death that provides us with a unique perspective: We are not above or bigger than death. Maybe only after exhausting the search for understanding why someone we love died can we discover a newly defined ‘why’ for our own life,” said Dr. Alan D. Wolfelt in Understanding Your Grief: Ten Essential Touchstones for Finding Hope and Healing Your Heart.
1. Don’t rush the healing process
It will take time for you to feel like yourself again. Don’t expect to be back to normal right away. Give yourself adequate time to grieve your loss. For some, it may take a few months, and for others it may take about a year before the grief feels less intense. Ignoring your emotions and moving forward too quickly will eventually catch up to you. For example, you may risk making important decisions before thinking the details through.
“…Many people try to avoid pain by bottling up their emotions or rejecting the feelings they are having. They may avoid places and circumstances that remind them of their loved one. They may try to take shortcuts through the grieving process, not admitting to the feelings of anger or denial that usually exist. However, the only way to move through grief is to move through it. It is impossible to escape the pain associated with mourning……Do not feel like you have to hurry to this stage. If attending a lighthearted party seems incongruous with your current state of mind, perhaps having coffee and conversation with a good friend would be a refreshing change of pace…Do not rush into making major decisions or changes that could add stress to your life,” said Dr. J. William Worden in Grief Counseling and Grief Therapy: A Handbook for the Mental Health Practitioner.
2. Give yourself permission to mourn
It is OK to cry and express the pain that you are feeling. Don’t be ashamed of showing others your true emotions. Allowing yourself to mourn does not indicate weakness; it is healthy and necessary. Giving yourself permission to mourn will be the catalyst for your healing.
“Grieving is the outward expression of your loss. Your grief is likely to be expressed physically, emotionally, and psychologically. For instance, crying is a physical expression, while depression is a psychological expression. It is very important to allow yourself to express these feelings. Often, death is a subject that is avoided, ignored or denied. At first it may seem helpful to separate yourself from the pain, but you cannot avoid grieving forever. Someday those feelings will need to be resolved or they may cause physical or emotional illness,” cautions Mental Health America.
3. Take care of yourself
Now, more than ever, it will be important for you to make sure you are not neglecting your basic needs. Don’t forget to eat, and make an effort to get adequate rest. Take a break from house chores, go to a spa to get pampered, and just make yourself a priority right now. Be kind to yourself.
4. Talk to someone
Share how you are feeling with a trusted friend or family member. Isolating yourself and refusing to acknowledge the death will make you feel more alone and sad. Expressing your feelings will help lift the load. If you find that your grief is becoming more unbearable, seek professional counseling.
“If your grief gets worse over time instead of better or interferes with your ability to function in daily life, consult a grief counselor or other mental health provider. Unresolved or complicated grief can lead to depression and other mental health problems. With professional help, however, you can re-establish a sense of control and direction in your life — and return to the path toward healing,” suggests Mayo Clinic.
5. Envision better days
Take comfort in the fact that things will eventually get better. Take one day at a time and look forward to the time when you will be able to get back to your regular routine. Focus on the happier days that lie ahead of you.
“Hope is an expectation of a good that is yet to be. It is an expression of the present alive with a sense of the possible. It is a belief that healing can and will occur…Through intentional mourning, you yourself can be the purveyor of your hope. You create hope in yourself by actively mourning the death and settling your intention to heal,” said Wolfelt.